Reflections of Eminent Economists

Reflections of Eminent Economists

Edited by Michael Szenberg and Lall Ramrattan

In this collection of autobiographical essays, 26 prominent scholars detail their professional development, while offering insight into their lives and philosophies. With candor and humor they relate how they came to the field of economics, as well as how their views have evolved over the years.

Chapter 20: A View from the Midway

Walter Y. Oi

Subjects: economics and finance, economic psychology, history of economic thought


333 instructor at Reed College in Portland, Oregon. This sociologist told Aaron that Chicago was the place to study economics. He took the advice, earned a PhD degree, wrote a book on unemployment (with Paul Douglas), and was appointed to the faculty. After a stint in Washington, Edward Levy appointed Aaron to the faculty of the Law School. This was indeed a fortuitous event that took place in the early 1920s when a sociology instructor pointed Aaron toward Chicago. A conference held at UCLA in 1982 honored Aaron Director and Ronald Coase as the individuals who began the field of specialization called Law and Economics.3 The accidental meeting of a Reed College undergraduate and a sociology instructor produced other externalities. Aaron’s sister, Rose Director, followed him to the University of Chicago, where she met and wed Milton Friedman nearly 60 years ago. The union produced two offspring, many ideas, and a monograph, Free to Choose, which has, in my opinion, significantly influenced the worldwide swing away from socialism to free enterprise over the last 20 years. The chance event in my life was not initiated by a sociology instructor but by a labor economist, Professor George Hildebrand. I was on my way to proctor an exam; he was looking over a bulletin board. He asked if anyone might be interested in applying for a fellowship at Chicago. We had heard about Friedman and the people at the Cowles Commission. The thought of transferring to another university had not crossed my...

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